13 Menu Items From Starbucks China We Wish We Had In The US

One of the most exciting aspects of traveling is the opportunity to sample cuisine from different corners of the world. It allows us to step beyond the boundaries of our familiar neighborhood offerings and venture into uncharted culinary territories to discover new favorite dishes. However, during these gastronomic explorations, we may occasionally find ourselves yearning for a hint of familiarity. In such moments, knowing what familiar food chains operate in the places we are visiting can offer a comforting respite.

Consider, for instance, McDonald's. In different regions worldwide, even this ubiquitous fast-food giant tailors its menu to reflect that particular area's specific tastes and preferences. Starbucks, another global operation with outlets scattered across numerous countries, follows a similar approach. If you've never visited a Starbucks location outside the United States, you might be surprised to discover the stark differences in the menu offerings.

These international menus are meticulously crafted to incorporate popular flavors from the respective regions, often featuring food and drink items inspired by local cuisine. For instance, you can find American-style pancakes gracing the pastry menu in China. Yet, that's just the tip of the culinary iceberg. The Chinese Starbucks menu also hosts a variety of cocktail-inspired beverages and ultra-luxe desserts that we can only hope will eventually make their way onto American Starbucks menus.


Iced coffee indisputably ranks among our favorite methods to savor the divine nectar extracted from coffee beans. But imagine combining this frosty delight with another beloved treat: ice cream. This culinary experiment transforms a simple beverage into a decadent dessert that sends taste buds into overdrive. Starbucks surprisingly does not feature items marrying coffee and ice cream on its menus worldwide. However, one distinct exception is the shops in China.

An iconic example of coffee-ice cream fusion is the affogato, a traditional Italian coffee drink. It may seem deceivingly straightforward, constituted of only two ingredients: rich, full-bodied espresso and creamy ice cream. But don't be fooled by its simplicity. When these two elements meet, they create an extraordinarily harmonious blend of complex and indulgent tastes.

In most places, you'll find the affogato served with the classic flavor of vanilla ice cream, but some places like to get fancy and offer it with different flavors of ice cream, diverting from the classic. Even still, Starbucks relies upon the comforting flavor of vanilla to enhance the espresso without overpowering it. The Chinese Starbucks menu holds true to this tradition, presenting the Affogato with this beloved vanilla profile.

Cold Brew Malt

Reminiscent of a velvety milkshake rather than a conventional coffee, a unique beverage hailing from the Chinese Starbucks menu entices us from afar: the Cold Brew Malt. It makes us think of bellying up to a soda fountain to order a malted milkshake, and though this drink is similar to a Frappuccino from our local menu, as a tantalizing concoction of ice cream, malt, bitters, and cold brew coffee, it definitely has a compelling allure that could drive a coffee enthusiast to contemplate hopping on a plane just to taste it. All these ingredients coalesce beautifully in the Cold Brew Malt, resulting in a refreshing beverage that sits perfectly at the intersection of coffee and dessert.

Given the typical serving style of espresso, which is usually piping hot, it makes sense to incorporate a naturally cold coffee element into a milkshake-like beverage. Cold brew, in this context, is a fitting candidate. Its production process, which involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water over an extended period, yields a brew that has a notably smoother and less acidic flavor profile compared to regular iced coffee and a silkier texture. This makes it an exemplary component to include in such a blended concoction.

Cold Brew Float

If the idea of starting your day with a frozen milkshake-style coffee drink doesn't appeal to you, perhaps a Cold Brew Float could hit the spot. This beverage shares similarities with an affogato but with a twist: cold brew coffee replaces the traditional espresso. This difference results in a beverage that not only offers a unique taste profile but also offers more liquid content. Given that espresso shots yield fewer fluid ounces than cold brew, the Cold Brew Float is a more substantial drink that may necessitate the use of both a spoon and straw, just as a root beer float requires both.

Reflecting on the familiar foam that crowns many of the cold brew coffees served in the United States, a Cold Brew Float takes this creamy indulgence to another level. The float-like foam has always felt akin to ice cream rather than mere creamer. Hence the idea of pairing actual ice cream with cold brew seems like an irresistible combination. Not to mention, for an even creamier experience, you can even order a Nitro cold brew float.

Mango Passion Fruit Frappuccino

The Starbucks menus in the United States offer an extensive array of coffee and cream-based Frappuccinos, featuring a myriad of flavors to cater to every palate. However, a category conspicuously absent from this diverse lineup is fruit-based Frappuccinos. Certainly, fans of stateside Starbucks Frappuccinos can enjoy a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino, but there are no other fruity flavors at our fingertips.

Contrastingly, Starbucks in China has introduced an exciting divergence from the norm with the delicious Mango Passion Fruit Frappuccino. Instead of using the usual coffee or cream base, this invigorating beverage begins with a floral tea base. It then weaves in the tropical sweetness of mango and the tangy flavor of passion fruit to create a unique, refreshing blend.

Unlike the typical Frappuccinos that come topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream, the Mango Passion Fruit variant is served without this creamy accompaniment. However, for those who have a penchant for a smoother, creamier, and sweeter taste, adding whipped cream could indeed transform this fruity concoction into a delightful creamy delight. 

Iced Shaken Honey Ruby Grapefruit Black Tea

While Starbucks locations in the United States do offer a variety of teas, none quite match the unique profile of the Iced Shaken Honey Ruby Grapefruit Black Tea available on the Starbucks China menu. This refreshing iced black tea is infused with an assortment of fruit flavors and sweetened with honey for a delightful, natural taste.

Interestingly, this drink illustrates a global culinary fusion, as the ingredients hail from different corners of the world. The tangy, richly aromatic grapefruit comes from Korea, while other fragrant ingredients are sourced from Spain and Israel. This exotic blend reflects an appreciation for cross-cultural flavors and a dedication to gathering diverse tastes into one fabulous iced tea.

Despite the availability of honey as a flavor in Starbucks locations in the United States, it's regrettable that no shaken teas currently feature honey. This omission seems like a missed opportunity, considering there is a honey syrup perfectly suited for this purpose. The introduction of a honey-sweetened shaken tea could provide a delightful alternative for customers seeking a naturally delicious, revitalizing beverage, taking their tea-drinking experience to new heights.

Iced Shaken Blackcurrant Raspberry Juiced Tea

For those who prefer a beverage with a simpler flavor profile than the Honey Ruby Grapefruit offering but still something fruitier than an espresso or coffee-based drink, the Iced Shaken Black Currant Raspberry Juice Tea offers a delightful blend of iced black tea and juice, vigorously shaken with ice. In this case, the juice introduces a fresh black currant raspberry flavor that beautifully complements the tea's robust character.

While Starbucks in the United States typically pairs its array of teas with lemonade to create unique but subtly different offerings, the only other interesting mixture with fruity flavors aside from that is when baristas mix coconut milk and the Refresher base. At some Starbucks locations worldwide, you can shake things up by ordering a variety of juice teas. The use of blackcurrant and raspberry juice is a brilliant combination that imparts a tantalizing balance of flavors. The blackcurrant introduces a distinctive tartness, while the raspberry adds a layer of sweetness that softens the edge.

Iced Shaken Mango Herbal Juiced Tea

Stateside, Starbucks offers Passion Tea and Passion Tea Lemonade, both of which are herbal teas shaken to combine ingredients. By shaking these teas, baristas integrate the flavors into one flavor. However, Starbucks in China broadens the tea horizon with a more extensive range of offerings featuring juicy and flavor-specific herbal teas. We love that there are more fruity, caffeine-free teas available rather than just one choice like here in the States.

Take the Iced Shaken Mango Herbal Juiced Tea, for instance. Unlike the more ambiguously flavored Passion Tea in the states, Mango Tea has a distinct and easily recognizable flavor profile. As a juiced tea, it blends herbal tea and juice to offer a rich, fruity depth that Passion Tea doesn't quite match. The introduction of a mango blend, in particular, amplifies the fruitiness of the tea, resulting in a beverage that is both refreshing and indulgently flavorful. With as delicious as mango is, it's a shame it isn't featured any more prominently on the U.S. Starbucks menu.

Iced Shaken Peach Oolong Tea

Upon a close examination of the menu at Starbucks in China, you might be intrigued by the Iced Shaken Peach Oolong Tea. At first glance, you may mistake the large pieces floating in the drink for ice. However, these chunks are actually pieces of succulent fruit. Unlike Starbucks in America, where you'd need to opt for a Refreshers beverage to find fruit, specifically freeze-dried fruit, in your drink, China's Starbucks boldly incorporates substantial fruit pieces into many drinks, including tea.

One such instance is the Iced Shaken Peach Oolong Tea. This invigorating blend of fruity pieces, black tea, and peach flavors concocts a beverage that is simultaneously refreshing and vibrantly flavorful. While the peach pieces may seem an odd addition to a drink, their prominent presence underscores the beverage's juicy nature, contributing to the overall sensory experience of the drink. This interesting use of large fruit pieces exemplifies how Starbucks in China pushes the boundaries of beverage innovation, creating a fusion of traditional tea and fruit that results in a unique and tasty drink.

French Caramel Bread

Anyone who has ever perused the pastry case at Starbucks knows it's a trove of delectable delights, boasting an array of muffins, scones, and croissants to satisfy any craving. In this respect, the Starbucks menu in China mirrors its stateside counterpart, offering a tempting array of treats that are sure to please the palate. Chinese Starbucks locations tend to have many more cake offerings, but there are also plenty of treats closer to a classic cafe pastry. Among these, the French Caramel Bread stands out as a particularly intriguing option.

This pastry is essentially a croissant, meticulously crafted into the shape of a disk, studded with crunchy almonds, and glazed with a generous layer of rich caramel. With the pastry being a croissant, it's a flaky, buttery offering that goes perfectly with coffee. Plus, its design makes it easy to handle and ideal for a quick snack alongside your morning cup. However, this exclusive treat isn't widely available in all Starbucks outlets in China. It can only be found in three specific regions: Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang.

Starbucks Coffee Tiramisu

If you've ever taken a look at the dessert menu at a quality Italian restaurant, chances are you've seen the option for a tiramisu. This cake is a mixture of wine, espresso, and lady finger cookies, as well as other delicious ingredients. Since coffee is such a prominent feature of this dessert, it makes sense for a coffee shop to offer it on the menu. However, given that China is certainly not Italy, it is surprising to see this very Italian dessert prominently on Chinese bakery menus at Starbucks locations.

To be honest, as devout lovers of Italian food, it makes us supremely jealous that we don't have Starbucks tiramisu readily available at the U.S. Starbucks cafes. It seems like the perfect way to round up the night after a dinner out or even a great way to pick up a dessert to have on hand for lunchtime. Not to mention, with all of the cake offerings on the menu, that more don't appear at your local Starbucks is quite disappointing, especially if you grow accustomed to ordering a certain dessert during your worldwide Starbucks tastings.

Ham & Double Cheese Croque Monsieur

When it comes to fulfilling sandwich options ideal for a hearty lunch, a croque monsieur is an outstanding choice. This classic French sandwich isn't your run-of-the-mill ham and cheese affair. It's graced with an ample serving of cheese on top, packed with toasted ham, and slathered in a decadent béchamel sauce. The end result is a warm, satisfying, and decidedly indulgent sandwich that's a feast for the senses.

However, these sandwiches can be somewhat heavy, making them less suitable for those seeking a lighter lunch option. As such, a Starbucks Croque Monsieur might not be your go-to choice on the Starbucks menu if you're aiming for a light meal. Just as the inclusion of Tiramisu, an Italian dessert, on Chinese menus might raise eyebrows, so, too, does the presence of the Croque Monsieur, a quintessentially French dish.

As it's a substantial sandwich, it's best paired with a lighter beverage. A tea or a subtly flavored iced coffee could complement it well, offering a refreshing contrast to the sandwich's rich flavors. This is not the time to team your meal with a heavy drink like a Frappuccino.

Hyun Iceberg Americano

For many Americans, Starbucks is synonymous with blended and sugary Frappuccinos or a daily latte or tea fix. The idea of procuring a cocktail-inspired beverage from a Starbucks outlet may seem quite far-fetched to a regular Starbucks patron in the United States. So, it might come as quite a surprise to learn that Starbucks China actually offers cocktail-inspired drinks. These concoctions are part of the Starbucks Modern Mixology line, boasting a tantalizing range of beverages inspired by classic cocktails.

Take the Hyun Iceberg Americano, for example. It's a creative reinterpretation of the classic gin and tonic. The beverage combines citrusy lemon flavors with robust espresso and a touch of sugar, mirroring the refreshing quality of its cocktail counterpart. It's akin to an iced Americano spruced up with a twist of lemon, reminiscent of the Mazagran type of iced coffee, albeit with a less pronounced lemonade mixed combination. With as bright and even floral, even fruity as gin can be, we love the way this drink brings these flavors to an espresso drink.

Vinegar Peach

One thing is unequivocally clear about the Starbucks menu in China: It isn't shy about showcasing intriguing and adventurous flavor combinations. The Modern Mixology line, in particular, isn't hesitant about pushing the boundaries of even classic cocktails, redefining our expectations of coffee-house offerings.

Take the Vinegar Peach offering, for instance. This isn't merely a liquid concoction; it's a textured experience, with chunks of fresh peach embedded within the beverage. This inclusion somewhat echoes the Refreshers menu at Starbucks outlets in the United States, where freeze-dried fruit is used. However, in the Vinegar Peach drink, the fruit pieces are significantly larger, occupying more space and consequently becoming more prominent in the overall sensory experience of the beverage.

The Vinegar Peach drink is an intriguing balance of the sweet juiciness of peach juice and the tart bite of peach vinegar. It might seem hard to fathom a customer in the United States ordering a drink that incorporates vinegar. Still, when thoughtfully blended into a cocktail-inspired beverage, it could just prove to be a refreshingly tangy revelation.